The following is a guest post by Randy Van Wagoner, President of MVCC, Gold Sponsor of the Boilermaker Road Race and host of the Boilermaker Health and Wellness Expo.
I consider myself an athlete, but I never ran without a ball. I played a wide variety of sports growing up, but when I went to my one and only day of middle school track practice, I stopped after the first half mile and left to wait for my mom to pick me up. I didn’t see the fun in running. Without some kind of ball, I didn’t have a ‘why’ to run. So I didn’t.
My running world changed in 2007 when my family and I relocated to the Mohawk Valley region. I was encouraged to run in MVCC’s annual Ted Moore Memorial 5K walk/run event, so I asked my oldest daughter who was still in elementary school at the time to run with me. We survived it, and better yet, we had a fun time running together. As we learned about the Boilermaker Road Race, our entire family began running in the 5K each year for that event. We had all enjoyed running down Court Street to the finish line with the crowds cheering along both sides of the street. It was like getting the full Boilermaker experience but only running one-third the distance.
In 2010, Steve Zogby gave me the encouragement to run the 15K Boilermaker. He said, “C’mon, you should do it. All you have to do is make sure you can run six miles and the crowd will carry you the rest of the way!” I’ve since said those very words to multiple people trying to pay it forward because I’m so glad I took Steve’s advice. I ran the 15K that year and thought I checked it off my bucket list. I kept running the Ted Moore and Boilermaker 5K races with my family each year and thought that was enough for me, but over time my ‘why’ became abundantly clear.
We have a Wellness Council at Mohawk Valley Community College and I attended a workshop on well-being that covered research conducted by the Gallup organization. I made a commitment to improve my physical well-being and set a goal of running the Boilermaker 15K again in 2016. As springtime came, I found myself enjoying the reflective time to run and quiet my mind. I became more centered and focused at work and more present in my interactions with others. I also became more aware of my diet and began eating a little better, which led to lowering my weight, which led to feeling better each day. My ‘why’ I run became to feel better and be better.
I ran the Ted Moore 5K last spring and ran my best time ever. We had over 200 people participate and had our largest fundraising effort ever for the Ted Moore Scholarship. It was a great day for the MVCC community. Late last summer, our oldest daughter and I ran in the Crim Festival of Races 10 mile race in Flint, Michigan where I grew up. We were part of a Boilermaker Road Race group that traveled there in a show of solidarity with the City of Flint and their water crisis. The only two road races who sent people were the Boilermaker and the Boston Marathon – a pretty powerful statement. My ‘why’ I run added to support great causes and connect to the best of being human.
I began running every time I traveled somewhere and mapped out interesting runs to see parts of cities I might not otherwise see. I ran my first-ever Race to the Canal 5K and ran along the Erie Canal. My ‘why’ I run now includes to see interesting sights and places.
On Boilermaker Sunday 2016, my family and I once again worked our morning routine like clockwork with all the friends, rides, pick-ups, drop-offs, and meet-ups. My wife and youngest daughter ran the 5K, as ever, and our oldest daughter and her friend ran the 15K, and I did as well. I find the local adage to be true – if we could bottle the sense of community pride that’s evident on Boilermaker Sunday, the other 364 days around here would be incredible. Running down Culver Ave, Memorial Parkway, Champlain Ave., and Whitesboro streets is so uplifting with so many friendly faces. The views from Valley View are phenomenal and the feeling of running down a crowded Court Street through the finish line is exhilarating. My ‘why’ I run now is attaching to something bigger than myself. It’s about being part of this community and touching a unique collective experience that can’t be replicated.
I would love to go back and tell my little 7th grade self ‘why’ people should run. I’m forever grateful to this community for helping me discover my own ‘why’. As the Ted Moore walk/run celebrates its 20th anniversary and the Boilermaker celebrates its 40th anniversary, I hope even more people discover their ‘why’ and turn out in record numbers!